'Lapsis': Gig work in a not-so-alternate reality

May 31, 2021
Dean Imperial as Ray, a worker just trying to get by in the sardonic gig-economy altern
Dean Imperial as Ray, a worker trying to get by in the sardonic gig-economy alternative world of Lapsis. Image supplied.

Written and directed by Noah Hutton
Starring Dean Imperial, Madeline Wise, Babe Howard
In cinemas

Lapsis is a slightly sci-fi tale set in a near-parallel present in which gig economy workers are manipulated into competing with each other — and with robots — to make a living.

It is seen through the eyes of a naïve worker, Ray (Dean Imperial). Driven by debt, he signs up to lay cable for a newly developed quantum computing company.

However, Ray quickly discovers he has to compete with other workers to meet his deadlines. And, what’s worse, the company uses robots to compete with the workers.

The movie is the brainchild of writer/producer/director/editor and musical score-creator Noah Hutton. Previously known for politically-committed documentaries, he spoke to Green Left about Lapsis, describing the film as “a bit of sci fi with Greek tragedy laced through it”.

Hutton said the inspiration for the film came from musing on “my own experience of being a freelancer, living that kind of gig-to-gig lifestyle for the past decade in New York, and realising at a certain point that elements of my own experience were far more universal”.

Those experiences included “having no health care, of having to buy your own equipment, of feeling cut off from other people, other workers, of not having any solidarity with other people who are like you.”

Another of the film’s aspects is “the gamification of labour”. By this, Hutton means “the ways in which these companies are adding little bells and whistles and making their exploitation into a video game, in order to mask what’s really going on”.

Gig work corporations “get people thinking ... if they can just get one more route, one more perk, they’re on their way to breaking out of the system and leaving the rest of their fellow workers behind”.

"What all of these things fit into ... is a sort of Russian nesting-doll world of scams," said Hutton.

"I really feel like that best describes everything from our global financial system all the way down to the smallest business owner, who is fleecing his employees into thinking he can only pay minimum wage, when he can probably afford to pay much more.”

“I just believe that more and more we live in a world of hyper-salesmanship and scams.”

In Lapsis, all this is conveyed with sardonic humour, and by some good acting performances from the cast of unknowns. While set in an alternative reality, the world of Lapsis isn’t all that different.

The film's trailer can be seen here.

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